[sic] Magazine

Wild Beasts – Present Tense

“Don’t confuse me with someone who gives a fuck”

Wild Beasts premier singer Hayden Thorpe anticipates this reviewer’s antipathy and flicks me the finger. Actually, it’s not that but he’d be right anyway. I had expected to give this record that most damning of indictments, the lukewarm review. Two plays in and I‘m already changing my mind. Present Tense is precisely what Wild Beasts needed. To show their teeth.

My concerns, prejudices if you like, cantered upon two factors: 1) the glacial pace of progression since Wild Beasts debut three albums ago and 2) their much discussed move into electronic music. The latter has become a fashionable move for guitar bands in recent times. I remain cynical. Take Editors (God-awful) third album as an example. I see it not as a calling to dispense with guitars (they had instead dispensed with their guitarist) but rather a calculated career move guaranteed to avoid four samey albums on the spin. Release a synth flop album to an established fanbase and it will still sell, but so will its follow-up, ‘return to guitars’, redemption record. They are not alone. The Boxer Rebellion have recently gone lite on their fourth album Promises whilst Reflektor saw the Arcade backfire. Brit hipster darlings Wild Beasts are not guilty of this though. Somehow, this collection feels like a comfortable successor to Smother.

Let us also remember, ‘synthesiser’ isn’t a style of music, it is an instrument. The style comes from what you do with it. Unlike Editors, Arcade Fire et al, Wild Beasts remembered to bring some songs to the table.Promotional single and album opener ‘Wanderlust’ is a terrific example but Present Tense is front-loaded with excellence. Among its opening salvo there are two star vehicles for Tom Fleming the underused (for my money) ‘other’ singer. Both ‘Nature Boy’ and ‘Daughters’ are up there with the bands greatest work. Tying the two together are the gorgeous ‘Mecca’ and the more ‘by the numbers’ ‘Sweet Spot’.

You guessed it, there’s a lull after the mid-point. The passage from ‘Pregnant Pause’ to ‘Past Perfect’ allows time for a pee break but don’t miss the album’s finale. ‘New Life’ and ‘Palace’ are the perfect closing duo. Flemings ‘New Life’ exudes stately gospel before the astonishing finale, ‘Palace’. You have to hear this people. It’s all in the sound of it – sweet and sour keys intertwine with Thorpe playing the cooing peacock. He even manages to make “a palace” sound like one foreign word. Woo hoo indeed. The saccharine sound of bad sex, it all ends far too soon.

With the likes of Sparks and Associates in their genetic makeup, Wild Beasts needed to shake off their ‘eccentric Brit’ tag. They’re doing just that with Present Tense. Roll on the future perfect.

Wild Beasts official website

Wild Beasts at Domino